February is typically the month of toys for me. It’s a sneak peek into all the fun, imaginative and educational products making their debut. Pre-pandemic, I would be coming back from New York and the North American International Toy Fair at the Javits Center.
For the second year, Toy Fair New York went virtual, but I still had a wonderful peek into what’s new and exciting in the world of play this year. The hottest trends will focus on sustainability and social justice themes. In addition, we’ll see a continued focus on sensory exploration, creativity and STEAM.
Living through a world-wide pandemic has taught us many lessons. One important lesson is how critical it is for families to connect through fun and play. The stress of these past two years has had a tremendous impact on young kids. Play is more important than ever to provide a creative outlet and an escape from daily stressors.
Trends range from role-play toys and fashion and food play, to artistic and building toys that inspire young content creators to customize their own play experiences. Many of these toys also tap into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning.
From Magformers, we saw the Wow Plus Set with more than 30 different magnetic vehicles with magnetic shapes, wheels and a racing driver character. Kids can follow along with the idea cards to create or build their own vision. With the new Thames & Kosmos Candy Vending Machine, the focus is not only on the end result, but on the process it takes to get there. With these kits, children will create a working toy vending machine that relies on the laws of physics and mechanical engineering to dispense prizes and sort coins properly.
Parents and children can immerse themselves in a world full of imagination with Bababoo and Friends through their combination of books, tales and whimsical wooden toys that make stories come to life, like the colorful Little Castle Stacking Toy that encourages children to build diverse, imaginative structures.
With Cry Babies First Emotions, kids can explore more expressions and feelings. This baby doll makes more than 65 realistic facial expressions and baby sounds. With CreateOn’s Daniel Tiger: So Many Feelings Magna-Tiles, children can play and explore their feelings through the magnetic building set, which helps young learners master interactive play.
Most of us are longing for more adventure, and whether we head to a new spot for a family getaway or make new discoveries close to home, you’ll find lots of travel-themed toys and games.
Kids will love to head out anywhere in their cool shoes custom-designed by Sticky Chic. These temporary tattoos for shoes will add a flair to their footwear. Adhesive peels away for a new design.
For adventures close to home, Globber’s NL-205 series delivers two-wheel scooters for older kids and teens with big wheels so that kids can get to their destination faster. The patented folding system allows for easy storage. Mobo’s 20-inch bike is perfect for taking a cruise around the park, the beach or the neighborhood. This item also includes a basket so that kids can carry essential toys and other items everywhere they go.
For some imaginative travel, climb aboard Green Toys Stack & Sort Train, a one-stop shop for practicing motor skills, color matching, counting, sorting and categorization. This super-safe first train has no screws or metal axles. The whole set is dishwasher safe and made in the USA from 100% recycled plastic with no BPA, phthalates or PVC. Young explorers will also love LeapFrog’s Touch & Learn World Map. It features 200 interactive touch points and 1,000 plus fun facts about oceans and continents, natural wonders, countries, languages, animals and landmarks.
Play with a Mission
Toy trends range from sustainability and the protection of endangered species to social justice issues, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, Wild Republic’s Message from the Planet plush animals leverage trending pop art graphics to give voice to the voiceless. They are 100% eco-friendly from tail to nose. The line includes a fun selection of animals including a shark, turtle, whale, elephant, giraffe, a rhinoceros, a kangaroo with a joey and a koala bear.
Look for much more fun coming this season. Check out nappaawards.com as we reveal the best for 2022 in the coming months.
Elena Epstein is the director of the National Parenting Product Awards.
All photos courtesy National Parenting Product Awards